When once the tank is quite filled, a decided change comes over the scene. A skiff containing a young man and a young woman - who is much afraid of the water - makes its appearance, the young man rowing with an air of conscious elegance and dexterity. A group of dancers comes skipping over the bridge to the jaunty strains of the band. Various picturesque promenaders follow the dancers. Then a delightfully solemn, matter-of-fact squire makes his appearance, fishing-pole in hand, and casts a line with every sign of lively expectancy. Presently he has a most extraordinary bite, one of those bites that you read about in the fish-story column of the newspaper. The squire, amusingly bewildered, tugs at the pole, and raises what seems to be a tremendous fish, whose struggles spatter the occupants of the skiff, and completely destroy the self-possession of the squire.
At the Water Circus. - The Fat Policeman as a Life-preserver.
While things are at this crisis, the spirit of mischief seems to break loose. Some mischief-makers who appear on the bridge complete the squire's anxiety by knocking his hat into the water; and very soon the fisherman himself manages to tumble in, pole, line, fish, and all. A country woman with a basket, who is solicitous about the squire's fate, falls with a great splash, and so does a dude, who has been shocked to discover that his shoes are wet. Matters are considerably jumbled in this way when a policeman appears on the scene. The policeman wears beneath his uniform a rubber suit which has been inflated to a wonderful size. He wobbles upon the bridge, looking about with great concern and indignation, asking what all this means. In his efforts to restore order or rescue somebody, he shares the fate of the others, bouncing into the lake in a manner so absurd as to excite fresh screams of laughter from the audience. The people in the water, discovering how buoyant the fat policeman is, at once seize upon him as a life-preserver, and the dude actually clambers astride of the portly figure, while the spectators laugh until the tears come. When the skiff has been overturned, and everything in the water is in a state of the liveliest confusion, a great spurt of water rises through the centre of the bridge, the spray of the sudden and graceful fountain is lighted by flashes of colored fire, and the water circus is at an end.
I think it will appear to be quite natural that the water circus should be very popular. It has already appeared in this country, though not to the extent it has been given in Europe. It will probably become more popular with us as time goes on, though perhaps an entertainment in which so many actors have to run the risk of colds and rheumatism may not be considered very promising in our climate.
But if this should be an objection, why is it that the latest and most popular of our water games is played almost wholly in winter? I am speaking of water polo, which within a few years has been growing in favor, until it is now one of the most cordially welcomed of all our sports. Tem-perature has, of course, a great deal to do with a game that is pursued in the costume of the swimmer. In the swimming-tanks of athletic clubs or gymnasiums, the temperature of the water can be regulated, and the temperature of the air can be brought up to the warmth of what has been called the "Turkish bath" atmosphere. There is no reason why the same conditions cannot be supplied in summer, when the air is naturally warm, and the water in a tank, without artificial heating, would soon be sufficiently warm. Undoubtedly there has been, hitherto, little water polo in summer, because in the warm season out-door sports of another kind tempt the athlete. Lake, river, and deep-sea swimming lure him away from the narrow dimensions of a tank. But as water polo gains in popularity, and begins to take rank as something more than a game to be played in-doors and in winter, when other forms of athletic sports are comparatively inaccessible, it is less likely to be set aside in the summer season. Indeed, water polo is continually on the increase as a summer sport.
Water Polo Diagram.
Our American water polo is simply foot-ball played in the water. It might seem more out of place to use the term foot-ball in a water game which does not permit the kicking of the ball, if modern football had not done away with a great deal of the kicking that once seemed the special characteristic of the game. The fact that foot-ball has, paradoxically, become so much of a hand game, makes it much more feasible than it once might have been to transfer the game to the water.
Water polo is not yet an exact science, either as regards the manner of the game or the place where it is played. There is much difference of opinion as to the proper size of the tank in which it should be played. Some players hold to a deep tank, in which everybody would have to swim throughout the game. Others are much in favor of a tank with a uniform depth of five feet or thereabouts, so that the player could stand when swimming was not demanded. Most of the games thus far have been played in the regular athletic club tanks. These are four or five feet deep at one end, and increase in depth toward the other end, until there they hold six feet or more of water. Unless special water polo tanks are constructed, in-door games will probably continue to be played in the tanks that are comparatively shallow at one end - although four feet of water is not to be despised in the opportunities it gives the swimmer.
A water polo team consists of six men, who are organized on the same general plan as a foot-ball team. Thus, there is a centre rush, two end rushers, a half-back, and two full backs or goal keepers. The accompanying diagram will give an idea of the way the team ranges itself in the water. The goal boards are about four feet long and twelve inches wide, and on each is painted the word "Goal" in large letters. The boards are about eighteen inches above the water-line. The goal line indicated on the diagram is an imaginary line, running between two marks on the sides of the tank, four feet from the end. The tank we shall suppose to be one hundred feet long and twenty feet wide. As the side with the shallower end has somewhat of an advantage, choice of end is decided by toss at the beginning of the game, and the sides alternate in position.